Creative Whole-Animal Butchery at Beltex
Located across from Liberty Park, the refurbished house that’s home to Beltex Meats appears to be nothing unique. Walking up the stairs and peering through Beltex’s large windows, an open room with brick walls looks simple yet modern. Once inside, there are two large cold cases, a couch, a table with chairs and a bookcase. From a distance, the items in the cold case look like your usual cuts of meat and basic charcuterie. I’m expecting steaks, chicken breasts, genoa salami and other tasty-but-predictable meats. Getting close, I see the items have labels including ciccioli, hog’s headcheese and cherry-wood-smoked kielbasa. The realization hits me quickly: This is not your ordinary butcher shop.
When one thinks of whole-animal butchery and charcuterie, creativity isn’t usually an adjective that comes to mind. Beltex Meats, an artisan-style butcher shop, suggests otherwise. Founder and co-owner Philip Grubisa immerses himself in the knowledge of cured meats, and is learning ways to make traditional butchery methods uniquely his own.
In 2014, Grubisa started selling brined pork chops and country pâté at the Downtown Farmers Market. After brining the pork chops, he took the leftover parts of the pig to make the pâté. Not sure if it would sell, he made just a few batches at a time. “It turned out I couldn’t make the pâté quick enough,” he says. It was apparent that many Utahns were fully accepting of Grubisa’s approach to classic charcuterie. After two successful years at the market, he decided to expand by opening his butcher shop on 900 South.
It appears that Salt Lakers have continued to love the items he and his team create. Throughout the first year of business, Grubisa has slowly added more products to the cold cases. Yes, you can get the basics and usual cuts, such as stew meat, rib eyes and short ribs. But even more exciting are the sausages, charcuterie items and sandwiches. What makes these items special? They all have Grubisa’s creative cooking stamp. Being a trained chef and, most recently, the executive chef at The Farm at Canyons Resort, he is able to take the basic salami, chicken breast or pork chop and create something unique and delicious. Pork butter is a prime example. “It’s a spread from the trim and waste of the pig. You create something that is tasty and perfectly edible,” he explains. In addition to taking a whole animal and breaking it down, Grubisa uses both the usual and unusual cuts of meat to create food that truly stands out.
Pork rinds are another crowd favorite. They’re meaty, buttery and crunchy. The smoked and brined chicken with lemon and rosemary is equally tasty. Something a bit more comforting on a cold winter day are the pot pies. Grubisa pushes traditional pot-pie boundaries with his Thai coconut curry goat pies with red lentils, squash and potatoes. If a sandwich sounds more up your alley, the Mojo Pork Cuban is an excellent option. The porchetta, smoked ham, acidic pickle and herbaceous mojo makes for a cuban sandwich unlike anything else.
Where does Grubisa get his inspiration for taking basic and predictable charcuterie and making something more? Originally from southern Florida, Grubisa reminisces on the influence for his Cubano salami: “Being from Florida, I remember working at a pool bar and watching the older men drink while eating Cuban sandwiches. I wanted to make a salami that represented that memory.” What makes this salami special is the use of Grand Marnier and orange peel, which adds a citrus note. “Almost everything in the cases have something of my personal experiences in them,” he continues.
Before making such drool-worthy products, Grubisa has to buy the underlying foundation: the whole animal. He prides himself on his relationships with local farmers and ranchers. Places like Christiansen Family Farms and Pleasant Creek Ranch help make it possible for Beltex Meats to develop such high-quality products. “We only get animals that are humanely raised, have never been treated with hormones or antibiotics, and never fed GMO’s. It takes time and effort to develop flavor and fat,” he explains. The animals Beltex gets from local providers supply just that. Every 12 days, they receive half a cow. They get three whole hogs and a lamb every Friday, as well one goat a couple times a month. Once the animals have been delivered, Grubisa and his team complete the breakdown and butchering process at their store.
Utilizing such high-quality meats and doing the butchering at the store, prices are a bit higher than your local supermarket. Grubisa has received complaints or questions about why the prices at Beltex are higher than normal. His response to such comments: “The high prices are often a misconception. These are the prices high-quality food should cost. Raising these animals takes money and time. We are also breaking down each animal in our store.” While it does cost a bit more, you’re getting items that, as Grubisa states, “Are worth every penny.”
No matter how big or popular Beltex gets, Grubisa continues to focus on the importance of keeping each item perfect and consistent. He and two team members are traveling to Italy to take an advanced salami-making class. “We want to expand our knowledge of Old World cured meats,” he says. “It’s essential that we know what we’re doing. We don’t treat our customers like guinea pigs.” In order to make each item exceptional, he explains the importance of having the basics of butchery and charcuterie down pat. At the Rocky Mountain Institute of Meat, he trained under chef and butcher Mark Denittis. He also earned his certificate in professional butchery. When looking at his past and his future goals, it appears Grubisa is always willing to learn, enjoys putting his own spin on the classics, and truly understands the importance of consistency. “I want customers to be able to buy the same item each week and for it to always taste great and to have the same quality,” he says.
Grubisa wants to continue promoting the great farming and ranching in the area and potentially create a line of retail products. However, he’s not racing to the finish line. Rather, keeping customers happy by producing the highest quality products is his primary goal. “We are taking baby steps. We want to make sure everything is consistent and to get people excited about what we’re doing,” he says.
Personally, my vote for the future is for Beltex to ramp-up sandwich production. Most Saturdays, the shop makes sandwiches with cured or smoked meats, and, as you can probably guess, these sandwiches are anything but boring. I’ve heard the meatloaf with sweet ’n’ sour pickles, bourbon barrel aged mustard and fennel marmalade is especially pleasing. They sell out, so make sure to get yours early.
511 E. 900 South, SLC